A little more than one year after Hurricane Irene blew through the region, leaving Springfield and other towns along the Rahway River submerged in flood waters, the Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control signed an inter-local agreement to develop the South Mountain Regional Detention Basin.
As Hurricane Sandy made landfall in Cuba On Wednesday and strengthened to a Category 2 storm that could threaten the Northeast, a group of mayors whose towns endured the aftermath of last year's storm met in Millburn Town to sign an interlocal agreement. The proposal will allow the towns to move forward with plans to construct a detention basin upstream, at the South Mountain Reservation. The detention basin is a "storage project" to reduce water elevations throughout the Rahway River Watershed during peak storms such as Hurricane Irene.
"This is the first step moving forward on accomplishing this," Millburn Mayor Sandra Haimoff said about the proposed basin. Haimoff explained the name was changed to emphasize the regional aspect of the project.
The basin is proposed for the South Mountain Reservation but in the City of Orange. However, the Mayors Council has met with the mayor of Orange, Dwayne Warren, and will meet with the Orange's City Council soon. According to officials, the plan was well-received by Essex County and County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, as well as local legislators.
The mayors of Millburn, Union, Springfield, Cranford, Kenilworth, Maplewood and Rahway, as well as the towns' governing bodies approved the agreement. Cranford Deputy Mayor Andis Kalnins attended the signing of the interlocal agreement, which was approved by the Cranford Township Committee during a meeting back on July.
During that meeting, Cranford Mayor David Robinson and Township Engineer Richard Marsden explained the plan and the flood remediation benefits the detention dam will have.
"Cranford is pleased to participate to ensure the project takes a step forward to mitigate some of the flooding concerns our region has faced," Robinson said.
Marsden said the plan will include a hydraulic assessment as well as environmental assessments to determine exactly where to build the structure.
"We're trying to accelerate this one project," Marsden said.
The townships joined together with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to focus on a dry dam in the reservation between Campbell’s Mill Pond and Diamond Hill Pond in Essex County.
The Corps did hydrology assessments and determined preliminarily that water elevations during peak storm conditions during 100-year storms would be almost three feet lower in Millburn, Union and Springfield and 1.5 feet lower in Cranford and reduced elevations in Rahway.